My land, my state

I meant to write about something else this fortnight but then you see, I got all busy and worked up trying to figure out these new immigration laws that us Indian, but non-Maharashtrian, musicians have to deal with sooner or later. I mean, now that the new immigration department of Mumbai has told even the legendary Amitabh Bachchan that he isn’t welcome in Mumbai any longer, I guess we lesser mortals had better pack up and leave for places with friendlier climes, or we had better go stand in long queues and apply for Maharashtrian visas.

Oh look, who’s going to be joining me in the visa queues! Santoor great, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma! No offence meant, but after all, he’s from Jammu, so he will need a new Mumbai/Maharashtra visa, won’t he? And that man there, with the long thin tube-like case under his arm? Doesn’t he look like Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia? Of course, that’s him, and rightly so, because he is a UP-wala after all. Who’s the guy humming Piya Basanti behind him? Looks familiar, doesn’t he? He’s the great sarangi nawaz, Ustad Sultan Khan. They say he’s from Sikar, Rajasthan, so of course he needs to be in this queue.

I have to say that this is turning out to be one long rocking queue – tabla nawaz Zakir Hussain with brother Fazal Qureshi and Taufiq Qureshi (their father came from Punjab and while the three brothers were born in Mumbai, the immigration department still hasn’t decided whether or not to grant them a naturalization certificate), Pandit Ram Narain, sarangi nawaz (from Rajasthan), Maihar gharana sitar veteran Pandit Kartik Kumar (originally from Bengal), Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj (originally from Haryana) and many more.

And a rule has to be applied for everyone, so come on, Sonu Nigam, Kumar Sanu, Sunidhi Chauhan, Richa Sharma, K.K., Shreya Ghoshal, Ismail Darbar, Pritam, Himesh Reshammiya, Gulzar sahab, Javed Akhtar, Shankar Mahadevan and all the others. No, it doesn’t matter that you’ve given the music-loving public of this country some of their favourite songs. The point is, you’re not from Maharashtra even if you have made it your home. Get into the visa queue before you are pulled out of your homes like that unfortunate taxi driver who was pulled out of his taxi and pummelled by the new immigration officers of Maharashtra.

By the way, I have not one, but two questions for the officers. What are their views on artistes such as the legendary Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle or, for that matter, Kishori Amonkar? Strictly speaking, they are from Goa, and that isn’t part of Maharashtra, is it? So would they too have to stand in the queue for visa applicants? Or, will they be exempted, and on what grounds? And sir, what would you like me to do? I am married to a true-blue Mumbaikar, Aneesh Pradhan, whose parents are from communities that are considered to be among the earliest inhabitants of Mumbai. Now, in most civilized countries, you are granted citizenship if you marry a citizen of a country. So, do I become a Mumbaikar by marriage, even though I am from bhaiyya-land Uttar Pradesh?

This piece was featured some time back in the Lounge section of Mint.

Shubha Mudgal

Shubha Mudgal


  •    Reply


    I understand how you must feel, and it’s a sorry “state” of affairs indeed. People in this country should be free to go where they want, stay where they want, and earn a decent living where they want.

    I am in no way taking the side of rightist parties saying that non-Maharashtrians have no rights to stay in Mumbai, but please do try and understand the other side of the story.

    For years, people have come and made Mumbai their home, have added to the diversity and beauty of the city, and made it what it is. This is true to some extent of all metri cities in India, or anywhere else.

    But, where else would you tolerate even an illiterate taxi-wallah being rude to you and saying “Hindi mein bolo, Marathi mein nahi” in our own state? If I were to go to Calcutta and say that to a few Bengalies, there would be a dharna outside my house.

    The states in India have their own language, food, culture, clothes, everything, and are proud of that heritage. This is true of all states. If I was to go to UP and call people bhaiyyas is a derogatory manner, would they tolerate that? Why are simple Marathis called ghatis?

    Every state needs to make such progress that people do not have to run out their states to make a living. People will travel to other states for better jobs, education, and they have every right to do that. But why do all the northern states piggyback on some of the states in India?

    The politicians there have done nothing for the people (the BIMARU states? It’s a pathetic short-form, but there it is!) While, in principle, I agree that people can’t starve, and if another state gives them their daily bread, they have the right to do that, why not ask the same tough questions to your UP, Bihar, and other politicians what they have been doing for so many years that most of the people have to live in utter poverty, go on having a team of children that they can’t support, and do not have a right to decent living in their own states? How much of a burden can a few states’ infrastructure take of the whole country?

    Before you ask if you need a visa to come to Mumbai, maybe ask the politicians in your state where all those crores of rupees that are supposed to take care of the people gone? Why are people kidnapped for money and why is there increasing gunda-gardi? Don’t blame most of us mild-mannered and peaceful Maharashtrians, blame the rogues in your state.

    With all due respect to this country’s democracy and to humanity, I still feel that Indian (read north Indian) politics has never been fair to Maharashtra, and your politicans suck big-time! It’s a classic case of “in the eyes of Delhi, people are equal, but some people are more equal than others.” I really wish people needed a visa to cross their states. Maybe that would force politicians not to export their poor to another state but look after them? Or maybe it would force people to revolt against such rascals when they knew their survival was at stake? When all states are economically more or less equal, the normal changing of jobs and states doesn’t alter things, but when a mass exodus happens, that creates a lot of questions and chaos.

    This is not making a case for the stance, but just letting you know that there is another side to the coin too.

  •    Reply

    Shubhangi ji,

    I am well aware of the other side of the coin too, as you put it. But I must confess that I am unable to agree with many of the conclusions that you have drawn and stated. I would also like to state categorically that not for a moment have I blamed most of you mild-mannered and peaceful Maharashtrians instead of blaming the rogues in my states as you accuse me of having done. Surely you cannot call people who yank out a taxi driver, gang up on him and beat him up mercilessly, and stomp on his vehicle and destroy it, mild mannered? Nor would I be able call anyone who incites such violence mild mannered or peaceful !

    Nevertheless, thank you for reading my piece and taking the trouble to respond in such detail. Perhaps we can agree to disagree and show these lumpen promoters of unnecessary violence, and hatred that a North Indian and a Maharashtrian can agree to disagree, but in a civilized fashion? 🙂
    Warm regards

  •    Reply

    I agree to disagree and very much in a civilized fashion. I know that there is no simple answer to the chaos that prevails, and I also agree that violence and headline-grabbing violent speeches only worsen the situation. But, if you were to read general blogs, or rediff message boards, you would know that people who have come to make this state a home do not respect it or its general populace, in spiate of coming from poverty-stricken states like Orissa and Bihar. We are a people divided by one country, and I feel only disgust and anger for the way things are.

    It wasn’t my place or position to add those comments, but you still read that and took the time to comment on it. Thank you so much! I know that behind that beautiful strong voice, there is a beautiful and strong person.

  •    Reply

    Shubhaji, I apologise, but I do feel compelled to respond to Shubhangi’s mail, which, to me exhibits an exceptionally blinkered vision.

    Shubhangi, you have to understand that metro cities all over are hubs that attract people from all over the country. Whether it’s Biharis in Calcutta, Punjabis and Haryanavis in Delhi or Rest of the South in Chennai or people from all over the world in New York City(!).

    If I were a Mumbaikar, I would be proud of that fact. The Mumbai, that Raj Thackrey and his goons are now trying lay exclusive claim on was not built by Maharastrians only. There are more non-maharastrians than Maharastrians that have made Mumbai what it is today. The financial capital of the country. The hard-working Gujjus, Parsis, South Indians (forget about the Bhaiyyas for a bit). So, when Maharastrians had no problem reaping the benefit from the hard-work of another community. why do they have a problem if a third community comes in and takes a share of what you never built exclusively anyway.

    I think this narrow minded parochialism is so anti the spirit of what we know as Mumbai. I always feel, instead of lingustic states, we should have just taken a scale and divided the country into 52 zones. Atleast we would not have wasted breath, money and energy on worthless issues.

    Just my two bits
    Warm Regards,

    What about all those Maharastrians that reside in other parts of the country? If we go with your

  •    Reply

    Respected Shubha Mudgal-ji (and Ritu as well):

    I am totally against the MNS launching an attack on North Indians, or any other community for that matter. It is time we Indians took pride in the fact that people of different states freely move around. Many of the so-called outsiders have contributed immensely to the diversity of Mumbai and its growth as India’s financial capital.

    Nevertheless there is another side to the story which also should be mentioned. If you move to another place, there is no harm in trying to learn the language or the customs of that state. (People are quick to adopt an American accent one week after they move to the US. I personally learnt new languages when I traveled abroad for my education.) At the very least, one shouldn’t deride or speak disrespectfully of the Marathi language if one moves to Maharashtra. Every language has its unique charm and needs to be preserved. I am from Pune and studied in a highly ‘cosmopolitan’ convent school. I recall have been made fun of as a “ghati” or a “ganwar” merely because I was of Marathi lineage. So many a time people have equated Maharashtrians with good-for-nothings (which is a highly biased and parochial view) and the Marathi language as a lowly backward language (again something that is so false!) which should never be taught in schools. After decades of settling in Mumbai, so many people refuse to learn even the basics of the Marathi language. Is this right? I recall the resentment amongst people whose mother tongue wasn’t Marathi, when the Marathi language was made a compulsory subject upto the 10th grade in state board exams in Maharashtra. This was around 1992/93. There is nothing wrong about it, because all vernacular languages are (and should be) taught as compulsory subjects in their respective provinces. Tamil is compulsory in all schools in Tamil Nadu which follow the SSC pattern (I am not referring to ICSE or CBSE schools). For that matter, French is compulsory in all schools in France, Quebec and Nova Scotia (Canada) and in French-speaking African countries.

    Of course, driving North Indians out of Maharashtra is definitely not the solution, because it will only exacerbate the discord, but I sincerely hope that people take cognisance of issues similar to the ones that I have mentioned, as well.

  •    Reply


    Regarding your grouse against native marathi speakers being refered to as ‘Ghati’, let me assure you this is not an issue of outsiders vs insiders but more so to do with the colonial hangover that we all suffer from. Native language speakers are usually made to feel inferior from the English speaking, more cosmopolitan person. in many ways.

    All metros have the issues you are speaking about. It is only in Bombay they are making such a brouhaha. In Delhi, ‘Bhaisaab/behenji’ is the terminology used for people not well-versed with English. And the Hindi and Urdu that was spoken in the days of yore was replaced by the punjabi/haryanvi of the immigrants.

    Also, I guess we have to remember one thing. The reason why Bombay prospered over the other metros was because it was *not* parochial. It was a great melting point of cultures from all over the country. It embraced whoever came in without making any demands. The mumbaiyya Hindi is the manifestation of that composite culture. Chennai and Calcutta on the other hand were far more tied to their regional identity and hence did not prosper that much.

    This sudden resurgence of Marathi pride, in the long run is going to hurt Maharastrians more than anyone else.


  •    Reply

    I have read with great interest all the articles written on this subject. I belong to UP and by birth Punjabi and before partition belong to Jhang district and am Jhangi also. Now with all the three tags attached to me, I am still proud of each of my root. If fact I write my poem which end with “jhangi” as takkalus (?)

    I know if one feels small and hurt by others’ offending reactions it is because he has not true pride in himself or herself. Those who have written against the views of Shubhaji must feel first as Indian and then a Marathi or UP-walla. Our country is unique. If one travels to different parts of India, its diverse culture fascinates. By heart and deed we must try to see that this fabric of oneness does not get affected adversely. Only positive words should come out from our mouth or in writing as each word has its effect and should never be misused.

  •    Reply

    “where else would you tolerate even an illiterate taxi-wallah being rude to you “. that comment strikes me as racist. Would you have the same attitude to a Keralite asking you to speak in English? I doubt it. Hindi, the national language is less acceptable than English in present-day Mumbai. Targeting the “Bhaiyyas” might be easy for the MNS goons but where it could lead is dangerous as we all know. Look at what is happening recently in South Africa- a virtual war on economic immigrants from neighboring countries. I wonder how many of the MNS cadres send their children to Marathi medium schools. Probably very few. If one goes abroad, say to Italy, within a year you will be speaking good Italian, or to Moscow- good Russian. Why? Because there really is no choice. Whereas here in Mumbai 1) Hindi is more useful than Marathi 2) English is preferred by educated Maharashtrians. Targeting the innocent taxi drivers was disgraceful and the absence of police to protect them outrageous.

  •    Reply

    i dont understand why everyone is bolstering over the issue of speaking marathi in maharashtra .. n bla bla whats wrong if people stay here and converse in hindi after all its our mother tongue. MOreover we should accept the fact that mahashtra is india not india is maharashtra.Maximum industrious people here are of outside origin just put aside them and see the potential of maharastra and then one would understand the point.Guys i dont understand why the educated ones are also getting carried away by the dirty politics played by the government

  •    Reply

    Nobody said that you shouldn’t converse in Hindi. Please read somebody’s posts verbatim before you dish out a knee-jerk reaction. The whole issue is that it takes two hands to clap. The way to come to a truce is that people who come from outside to Maharashtra show some respect for Marathi culture, and for Maharashtrians to ignore useless organizations like the MNS. But there is nothing in wrong in showing respect to someone else’s culture, and it does not require you to stop following your own customs and traditions. I can’t understand why supposedly educated people like you don’t understand a trivial point that was made in the post you responded to. As for your point that “maximum industrious people are of outside origin”, I wonder whether you have made a detailed survey on this matter, or whether it is a figment of your imagination. And what are the criteria you used to define what or who is industrious?

  •    Reply

    Hello to everyone,
    I feel we cannot let the politicians divide the country into pieces over language and religion. I am a Maharashtrian and a typical Bombayite from a middle class family. Why can’t we think our country as whole, why are we talking in terms of marathis- non-marathis? Lets talk about India. People come down from states of U.P and Bihar for jobs and not for fun. They come down here leaving their homes,families to do hard work and city like Bombay gives them some money to save and earn. We as people and state needs to create more job oppurtunities,more enterprenuers, government need to chalk out these long term plans with immediate effect.
    Same is the case with mot metro cities. India is a free country what MNS does won’t stop people from coming to Mumbai. People will always come down for work and bread. This has been the history. At the same time, city infrastructure, cheap housing, more jobs need to start up, 2-tier cities like
    Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Nagpur,Pune and many other centre need to come up. Law and Order situation in U.P and Bihar needs to improve. Root cause of the problem is not those influx but lack of oppurtunities in those states.
    Violence needs to stop or I am sure we will see our country will be divided into small pieces like Bhaiyaas,kanadiaga,tamilians,marathis,punjabis and I don’t miss my non-marathi friends for life due to that. Do you?..

  •    Reply

    Dear Shubhaji

    Haha !! You have certainly captured the Art of Writing WOW love the energy in this article .. its picturesque.. I could really see the line of musicians in the queue … !!

  •    Reply

    Dear Shubhaji,
    What I think is that India is a country of diversity. If speaking of Mumbai particularly, there is a difference with other metro cities. The development of Mumbai is SOLELY (mind my words in CAPS) due to people from other parts of India who have enriched it. Otherwise it would be like Nimgaon or Phaltan or any other ordinary place. It is not the Maharashtrians that have contributed to what Mumbai is today. Thats is why in Mumbai, Hindi the rashtra Bhasha is predominant than Marathi, inspite of Maharashtrian terrorists forcing people time and again since few decades to learn Marathi. Now when the Amrit is been churned out, the Mahas in short want to milk the cow alone.
    Subhangi G has commented that ” If I were to go to Calcutta and say that to a few Bengalies, there would be a dharna outside my house.”
    Well how ignorant Subhangi G is. Bengalis have never resorted to communal terrorism. Every bengali knows Hindi and given a hint that the other person in the conversation is not a bengali, starts speaking in Hindi inspite of that the other person might know Bengali.
    In fact, none of the original state inhabitants in a metros is so intolerant and ungrateful other than Mumbai Mahas. This is true even with the new metros like Bengaluru and Hyderabad, etc
    I am a resident of Delhi where people from North Indian states have co existed peacefully.


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